“As for Margolyes’ more personal pieces in the show, she says that they are an evocation of “my life and my judgement on my life”.
“Adelaide is the city of my heart,” Miriam Margolyes tells me, on the line from the east coast. Her statement reflects a column she penned for The Advertiser in July last year after finishing the May run of Neighbourhood Watch with the State Theatre Company. “Adelaide’s charms are compelling. Sydney has taken my money, Melbourne has my respect, but Adelaide has taken my heart; I shall return,” Margolyes wrote. Her reappearance in the city of churches comes sooner than many would have expected. After an opening run in Melbourne, Margolyes’ eponymous homage to Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Miriam, will come to the Adelaide Festival Centre for a quick, eight-night season. Her show is not simply an homage to Wilde, but to the many other authors, playwrights and poets she enjoys. “It’s a very hard show to categorise,” Margolyes says. “I tried to choose things that mattered to me.” Audiences can expect renditions of work from well-known writers such as Shakespeare and Dickens (Margolyes plans to revive characters from Dickens’ Women), and Australian writers such as A.D. Hope and Clive James. The show is more a selection of texts accompanied by a personal history than a conventional narrative. Margolyes says that people can expect her to see her play characters she “would never dream of playing” like The Bard’s Juliet. The Importance of Being Miriam is a collaborative effort between Margolyes and award-winning pianist John Martin. The pair previously worked together on Dickens’ Women, and Margolyes says she could not be happier to work with Martin once more. His contribution to the program will also be a selection of older songs, along with some of his original music. “It’s a celebration of excellence in words andmusic,” Margolyes says. As for Margolyes’ more personal pieces in the show, she says that they are an evocation of “my life and my judgement on my life”. “This won’t be the final word, but it will be the penultimate word.” Moving on from this sombre hint at mortality, the characteristically ebullient actress laughs, saying, “I have warned people that the show will be rude and occasionally filthy, but there will be no nudity.” When quizzed on what she plans to do with her free time in Adelaide, Margolyes happily rattles off her favourite places and where she hopes to go. At the top of the list above a visit to the State Library and Italian restaurant Chianti is, perhaps unexpectedly, the Hungarian Club in Norwood. “Every Wednesday they have a pensioners lunch at the Hungarian Club,” she says, noting her enthusiasm to go back. The story behind this unexpected destination is what you might expect from such an experienced and involved actress. In last year’s Neighbourhood Watch, Margolyes played a fussy Hungarian widow who developed a close relationship with her next door neighbour, based on the experiences of the show’s playwright, Lally Katz. In preparation for the role, Margolyes attended these pensioner lunches, made friends with the community and was coached in her grasp of the infamously difficult Hungarian language and accent. “Hungarian is a very difficult language to get,” she says before adding “Hungarians are very individual as is Hungarian food.” One can see why such a unique actress would want to return. Margolyes’ recalling of Neighbourhood Watch reflects her fond memories of Adelaide. “Neighbourhood Watch was a very happy experience for me,” Margolyes remembers, “I was in heaven. It was a happy marriage of cast, crew and director.” Even before the run of The Importance of Being Miriam has begun, she pledges her desire to come back once more. “This is just a short visit, but I’ll be back. I know that because they asked me.” The Importance of Being Miriam Adelaide Festival Centre (Dunstan Playhouse) Wednesday, March 25 to Wednesday, April 1 statetheatrecompany.com.au